Jonathan Fryer

Turkey: Erdogan’s False Move

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 15th June, 2013

Recep Tayyip ErdoganGezi Park demoWatching events in and around Istanbul’s Taksim Square over the past few days, as well as in Ankara and some other Turkish cities, has been like seeing a slow-motion car-crash without being able to do anything about it other than shout a warning. And, alas, the driver — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — has not been listening. What started out as a predominantly good-natured environmental protest against plans to redevelop Gezi Park turned into a much wider challenge to Mr Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic style in the wake of high-handed police activity. Police and army brutality is nothing new in Turkey but one of the undoubted achievements of the AK Party’s 10 years in power had been a rejection of the State’s right to trample on people’s freedoms at will — or so the outside world was given to believe. Actually, those of us who covered trials of writers and journalists, or who watched the way Kurdish activists — including some members of parliament — were treated realised that the situation was not that clear-cut. It is true that Mr Erdogan has overseen an extraordinary period of growth in the Turkish economy, the stabilisation of the currency and the recognition of Turkey’s significance as an inspiration, if not quite a model, in the MENA region. That makes it all the more tragic that he has thrown away so much of the genuine international goodwill by ordering a crackdown by the security forces on demonstrators. These he has portrayed as “looters” and worse, despite the fact that the crowds in Taksim Square, in particular, were extremely heterodox, as not just leftists and trade unionists but ordinary citizens with no fixed political affiliation felt motivated to get out on the streets and to stand up for their freedoms. The Prime Minster obviously feels he has to show himself to be a man of steel, but that does not go down so well in 2013 as it often did in the past. I suspect the current move against the people in and around Taksim Square was deliberately planned for a weekend, when most of the world’s parliaments are not sitting and the leaders of the top Western industrialised nations are deep in discussion about the global economy at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland. But I would wager that Mr Erdogan has miscalculated in this, just as he has made a seriously wrong move on the ground. The world will notice and decry what is happening — as will a significant proportion of the Turkish population.

 

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2 Responses to “Turkey: Erdogan’s False Move”

  1. I still find the comparison with Paris in May 1968 interesting – although I’m also quite sure this must not be pushed too far. Remember that after a period of strikes and riots, there was also a huge rally in the Champs Elysee in support of De Gaulle and the status quo which dwarfed the left-wing protests? Is Erdogan’s big rally in Ankara the equivalent? The French economy had been booming but society had also been transforming itself in ways that the instinctively authoritarian De Gaulle had not noticed during his lengthy term in office. Prosperity probably has changed many Turks’ ideas about life over the last decade – hence Erdogan’s call for larger families (also reminiscent of De Gaulle). The alleged “neo-Ottomanism” of the AK probably has something in common with Gaullism – which outlasted De Gaulle who chose to resign (I do not think he was pushed). But if the AK holds together and retains power (which it probably will), it may have to revise some of its ideas – just like M. Pompidou who succeeded De Gaulle. It will be in its own interest to do so.

  2. Reblogged this on Michael Volkmanns Blog.

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